A total lack of respect for the game of basketball.
That’s how Robert Morris coach Andy Toole described his team’s Northeast Conference opener loss to Sacred Heart, 69-65, on Saturday at the Sewall Center.
After an abysmal 2-11 non-conference season, the league season was supposed to be a fresh start for the reigning champions. Instead, the Pioneers, who were 1-10 in their non-conference slate, were the ones leaving the court revitalized.
The Colonials led for the majority of the game, up until about midway through the second half when Sacred Heart went on a 21-6 run to take command. Robert Morris tried for its usual late comeback with 3-pointers from junior point guard Kavon Stewart, senior guard Rodney Pryor and freshman guard Matty McConnell with fewer than two minutes to play, but it was too late.
Pryor cited a common problem plaguing his team all season as the reason for the loss: a lack of urgency.
“We’re not just going to walk into the league and just win games by just showing up,” Pryor said. “We’ve got to be the hardest playing team every time we step onto the floor. … We’ve got to stop taking other teams for granted, especially now that we’re in the league because guys are coming to play hard and coming to win.”
Toole’s remedy was a little more shocking.
“What we need is, like, AEDs,” he said. “We need to jump-start people. And coaches are trying to create all this energy that, it’s fake because it’s not from within. It’s not from within the locker room. It’s not from within individuals.”
Toole said it was clear his team was not mentally prepared to play as one of the top-three defensive keys on his Sacred Heart scouting report — written in big, bold letters — was, “No big game for No. 1 Cane Broome.” The sophomore guard finished with a game-high 33 points, shooting 11-for-22 and playing all 40 minutes.
Stewart led the Colonials with 19 points.
“It’s a wakeup call for everyone in the locker room,” Stewart said. “I hope this loss lets everybody know it’s really hard to win games.”
Toole, however, said he isn’t sure yet another loss is going to bring this team to life.
“I’ve never had a team respond less to me as a human being than this group,” Toole said. “And it’s extremely humbling because you think you’re actually, like, halfway decent at something and have a little bit of a track record of success, and I can’t get these guys to do anything.”
-Senior forward Aaron Tate practiced the past few days but is still not comfortable playing. He’s been limited since having surgery on a lower body injury before the season started.
-Freshman forward Joe Hugley will transfer, Toole said. He had yet to play any minutes for Robert Morris this season.